Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing is an article that discusses the nature and power of learning from place. The article illustrates the reflection of a research project that was conducted to honor the Mushkegowuk Cree people’s concepts of land, environment, and nature. By sharing the story of the river excursion which joined many generations from youth to elders, the importance of learning from experience and storytelling were conveyed which are two key ideas of the indigenous ways of knowing.
The article explains how decolonization cannot be limited to rejecting and transforming normative narratives but rather must also depend on recovering and renewing mentorship and intergenerational relationships. Thus, the river excursion which allowed individuals from vast generations to travel together and communicate with one another demonstrates many forms of decolonization and reinhabitation. While on the voyage, youth, adults, and elders learned about the history and significance of the river, related issues of governance and land management, and the culture of the community. A key theme was the importance of nature and land for the Muskegowick people which is more than just a resource; it is a spiritual and material place that all life springs from and the cultural identity of the people. The word The large focus on the word ‘paquataskamik’ which means “natural environment” was emphasized in explaining the traditional views of the land. The elders were also able to share many vibrant meanings of the river that go well beyond thinking of it as simply a body of water. The Mushkegowuk people saw the river as a way of life and believe that it has physical, spiritual, and emotional uses and meanings. The river is also used as a cemetery and it is expected that when traveling along the river those who have passed away remain in ones’ thoughts and prayers. The group also documented sites of significance for the community during the excursion which encourages reinhabitation of the land. Most importantly, while on the trip, an audio documentary was recorded to detail the experience of the travelers. Many voices such as those from members of the band office, health center, and education system, were included allowing for community involvement beyond those participating in the excursion. The documentary was shared with the community and broadcasted on the radio in hopes of reaching a broad audience and allowing their stories and traditional knowledge to be heard and preserved for future generations to come. Reinhabitation and decolonization are dependent on one another but both rely on identifying a need for change regarding the use of land and ways of thinking and the river excursion, which helped members of the community share linguistic, cultural, historical, and geographical knowledge permitted for these realizations to occur.
After reading the article, I realize the significance of teaching from place and being aware of the traditional understandings of the community that I will be teaching in. Acknowledging my position in a given community will require me to commit to unlearning and relearning new perspectives and provide me with insight into the perceptions my students hold. It is important that I recognize my personal biases and remain aware of my own beliefs while being open to change and accepting of new ideas. I must remember that knowledge and curriculum can come from more than just textbooks and government regulated materials and that it is okay to ask for help when I do not feel confident in my knowledge about particular subject areas. Bringing elders and other voices into my classrooms will allow my students to learn from experts in their fields who can speak from experience and provide my students with true understandings. Encouraging learning from place in my classroom will require me to first acknowledge my position in the community but more importantly incorporate significant local knowledge and values into everyday classroom lessons.